Sunday night my daughter and I sat in the living room and watched Oprah Winfrey interview Gabrielle Douglas on the “Next Chapter.” During the interview Douglas revealed that while training at the Excalibur Gym in Virginia Beach, Virginia she was bullied by some of the other gymnasts. As the only African American training at the gym, Douglas said that she felt bullied by the girls because of her race.
The most stunning revelation made by Douglas during the interview was that she was called a “slave” by other girls at the gym. While speaking to Winfrey, Douglas said “I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.”
One specific incident that Gabby talked about involved a gym member who was asked to scrape chalk off of the bars. Instead of fulfilling the request she posed the question “Why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave.”
Since the interview some other gymnasts who previously trained at Excalibur have come to the defense of the gym. Former Senior International Elite and National Team Member Randy Stageberg voiced her opinion about the matter in a post on Gymnewstics.
This is absolutely ridiculous. I trained at Excalibur gymnastics for 8 years and I personally trained with gabby for 2 of those years. The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening. I watched dena and Gustavo put so much of their time and effort into gabby and the other athletes, no matter their race.Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bond to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up. Also, not only does she owe the gym thousands of dollars but she owes dena thousands as well. I watched dena open her home to gabby, feeding her, taking her to gym, and allowing her to stay over her house whenever gabby wanted to. You take people like dena and Gustavo, people that are selfless and put so much into helping these gymnasts reach their potential and you make them out to be evil and heartless. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Unless you were there to witness these so called racial acts against gabby I suggest you take your comments elsewhere because you sound ignorant. Girls leave gyms all the time it is just part of being an athlete but there is absolutely no need to publicly bash people that have done nothing but support you and do the best they can to help you reach your dreams. I also trained with Morgan Evans, Marcia Newby, Britney Ranzy and Sheriese Clark all of which were on the national team and are African American. I can assure you they all have nothing but great things to say about their experience at Excalibur.
Okay, so typographical and gramatical errors aside let me get this straight. Stageburg’s first response to claims of Gabrielle being bullied is to bring up the fact that she owes the gym and it’s owner thousands of dollars. So basically, what she is saying is that as long as the little black girl still owes a debt to the owners of the gym, she should keep her mouth closed until that debt is paid. She shouldn’t be allowed to speak out publicly about an issue that has long lasting effects like low self esteem, youth violence, poor academic performance, and many times suicide. I TOTALLY get it now. *slaps self on forehead* When someone gets bullied it’s their own fault and not the fault of the people who are doing the bullying, and the person that is being bullied shouldn’t speak out publicly about the humiliation they received. Oh, and how could I forget about the statute of limitations that is placed on being bullied. You’re not allowed to speak out about it once you win a gold medal and have the nation’s attention, because that would just be too much like the right thing to do with the platform that God has given you…Silly me!
Apparently, Stageberg is not only a World Class gymnast, she is also an omnipotent and omniscient being who has the ability to know and see all things. How else would she be able to make a statement like ”Gabby was never a victim”? The only way to make a statement like that would be if she actually lived in Gabrielle’s shadow 24/7 for the two years that she trained at Excalibur.
The thing about Stageberg’s statement that really grinds my gears is when she names all of the other African American girls that she has trained with at Excalibur and telling what a great experience they had and what great things they have to say about the gym. Again, there she goes with her gift of omnipresence. To me this is the equivalent to someone saying “Oh, yea I call black people the N word all the time…but that doesn’t make me a racist because I have plenty of black friends.” Just because you know other girls who didn’t get bullied does not mean that Gabby wasn’t a victim of crude and inappropriate remarks. Douglas never once named the gym’s owners or employees when she mentioned being bullied. She specifically said that she felt like she was being isolated and picked on by other girls. She didn’t say it happened every day. But if you ask me one time is enough. For anyone to even question the timing and motives behind someone speaking out about being bullied is sickening. This is why so many women never speak out about being raped, why so many children never speak out about being abused, and why so many bullied teenagers take out their agression on others in the form of mass shootings. Because so many people use the “kids will be kids” analogy when it comes to bullying. We are living in an age where kids are shooting up high schools because they feel like they were bullied. That “kids will be kids” crap just isn’t going to cut it any more. We need to get to the root of these problems and nip them in the bud.
The irony of this story is that my 8-year-old daughter who looks up to Gabrielle actually starts gymnastics this week. Once a week she will be going to a gym and learning to do all of the things that she watched Gabrielle do during the Olympics. She wants to flip and fly in the air just like the ‘flying squirrel’ that she watches on television. And as long as she has the desire to do it, I am going to let her. She and I have talked about bullying before, and I am constantly trying to prepare her for some of the adversities that this life is going to throw her way. In the event that something does happen, and she begins to feel bullied, I can only hope and pray that she has the heart of a champion…an OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNING champion and speaks out about it.